Kansas patients can finally win big in doctor malpractice suits. But at what cost?

The Wichita Eagle
Friday, July 5, 2019

Brenda Lundeen went in for routine surgery to relieve heavy periods.

What the Overland Park mom and grade school teacher got was a nightmare, as a medical mistake caused 194-degree water to pour through a hole in her uterus and scald her insides.

After three surgeries to remove parts of her burnt colon and intestines, months defecating into a colostomy bag and years of trauma, a jury awarded Lundeen $2 million in a medical malpractice lawsuit for noneconomic damages, commonly called “pain and suffering.”

That number was immediately knocked down to $250,000 — the maximum allowed under Kansas law at the time.

“I have felt since this began that I should try to speak up against the cap,” Lundeen said. “Not for me, but for all the people whose cases are way worse than mine.”

That cap on noneconomic damages is now gone — struck down in a Kansas Supreme Court rulinglast month.

Doctors say that ruling will open the floodgates to high-dollar lawsuits that will drive up the cost of care for everyone. But patients like Lundeen and plaintiffs’ attorneys say Kansas doctors have for too long been shielded from responsibility for mistakes that cause a lifetime of suffering.

There are now 21 states (including Kansas) with no cap on noneconomic damages, according to the Center for Justice and Democracy at New York Law School.

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